On our drive from the park entrance to Hosteria Pehoe we got our first taste of the incredible scenery and wildness of the park. Shortly after entering the park we came across this group of guanacos moseying along the road. Over the next couple days we’d routinely see guanacos, both alone and in groups. Maybe a bit surprisingly, we only saw them when driving — it seems like they stay in the foothills around the lakes and don’t wander much into the valleys of the big mountains.
Our first night in Torres del Paine we could hear the wind howling outside our hotel room at Hosteria Pehoe and were happy to be inside solid walls. We had looked into staying in a dome tent at the nearby campground, picturing the weather would be somewhat similar to the Colorado mountains, but after experiencing the Patagonian weather we were happy that we opted for something more substantial. We had heard Pehoe was a little shabby but in a beautiful setting, which pretty accurately described it. The room didn’t have any sort of view, and was kinda shabby. However the view from the dining room, looking across Lago Pehoe directly at the Cuernos del Paine, was pretty incredible.
After hearing the wind all night we weren’t sure what to expect on our first hike the next morning. We decided to head to Mirador Torres trail which began near the Las Torres hotel. The drive there from our hotel didn’t look too bad on the map, but ended up taking around an hour since it involved navigating dirt roads. As we neared Las Torres hotel we crossed a sketchy, but scenic, narrow bridge and the road became quite a bit rougher. Torres looked like a nice hotel, but it definitely took a little effort to get to.
When we started the hike we were pleasantly surprised to find the wind wasn’t all that bad. Once we got up to the valley the wind was intermittently stronger, but in general not that bad. We hiked up to the Campamento Torres, which had a nice view of the Torres, but we didn’t make it all the way up the trail since the last part of the climb looked really steep and the weather looked questionable (which we eventually came to realize is pretty much a permanent state of affairs there).
The next day we decided to take the ferry across Lago Pehoe to the Paine Grande Lodge. We caught the first ferry across and then did a hike to see Glacier Grey. The trail was pretty easy, without the vertical gain that Mirador Torres has, but was windy at times. We reached the view looking out over Glacier Grey in about an hour and a half. The view was cool, you’re about 1000 feet above Lago Grey, but we had to brace ourselves against the wind and so didn’t linger too long.
After our hike we had some time to kill before our ferry left so we had a couple local beers in the lodge; it was a nice treat for such a remote location. We then caught the last ferry of the day back across the lake. Since the ferry is taken by a lot of circuit trekkers and day-trippers we were a little concerned about not getting a spot on the boat so we got to the dock early. In the end it looked like everyone got on the boat, but we talked to some people later who said that a few people weren’t able to get on the earlier ferry they had taken over, so getting there early seems like a good idea.
Overall Torres del Paine was stunning. The wild and remote setting, precariously sheer peaks, hanging glaciers, turquoise lakes, and slightly comical guanacos combine to make a place that lives up to or exceeds its reputation.
- They won’t accept Argentine pesos in the park, we were able to use credit cards at the Pehoe hotel (and saw signs for them at the Pehoe camping) and dollars at Paine Grande Mountain Lodge. We also noticed a money exchange sign in the Hotel Las Torres, so it looked like there were possibilities for exchange some places (although these places were few and far between).
- You buy tickets for the Catamaran across Lago Pehoe on the Catamaran itself. This was unclear to us, even once we arrived at the Catamaran dock. But a little ways into the trip one of the boat crew members busted out a money box on the lower deck and started selling tickets, and somewhat oddly, biscuits and coffee (they seemed to be only accepting Chilean pesos) .
- We got park/hiking maps (and a warning about the high winds) from the ranger station where we paid our park entry fee.
- Here’s a couple park maps: Glacier Grey Side, and Torres del Paine Side